Nurses Interested in Cardiac Medicine Degrees Should Consider CCU Nursing
Intervention and Education Saves Lives
Heart disease is rampant in the U.S. The American Heart Association reports that in 2008 cardiovascular disease related deaths represented 30% of global deaths. Heart attacks—close to 1.5 million of them—bring cardiovascular patients into hospitals around the country each year. About 85.6 million Americans are living with some form of cardiovascular disease or the after-effects of stroke. 2,150 Americans die each day from these diseases. It is no big surprise, given these alarming numbers, that a whole nursing specialty is devoted to cardiovascular patient care.
High blood pressure, coronary heart disease, and stroke are the main cardiovascular diseases. Patients’ lives are saved with early intervention, diagnosis, care management, and subsequent education. These are often the responsibility of a cardiac care nurse.
Role of Cardiac Nurse
Cardiovascular nurses are most often a subset of a critical care nursing unit. Most serious CVDs are managed and treated within hospital environments. Regardless of the work environment, cardiac care nurses may be required to respond to immediate cardiac emergencies, work as a liaison with patient families, monitor cardiac patients for recurrent symptoms, develop a care plan, administer medications and deliver targeted health education to patients and families.
The vast majority of cardiac care nurses work in a hospital setting, usually a critical care floor or a cardiac floor. In these situations patients have life-threatening CVDs or are in the hospital for surgical intervention, which also requires careful monitoring. Outside the obvious hospital environment, there are other settings in which cardiovascular nurses work:
- Cardiac Rehabilitation facilities use cardiovascular nurses and cardiac rehab nurses as an integral component in patient care management. Patients learning to live with CVD require the close guidance of a well-trained nurse that can assist families with lifestyle modifications, education on medications and medical procedures, and develop follow-up care designed to improve patients’ conditions.
- Within nursing homes, assisted living, and long-term care facilities, cardiac care nurses may be implemented as part of an overall patient care model. Nurses make regular visits to CVD patients as required, monitor medications and make recommendations on diet, exercise and other lifestyle-specific therapies.
- Cardiac care nurses may be part of a visiting nurse program. In-home patients living with CVD may require the regular guidance of a cardiac nurse.
Critical care nurses whose specialty is cardiac care may have the preferred four-year BSN degree, but many also have two-year degrees with RN licensure, on-the-job training, and experience in critical and cardiac patient care to augment. Nurses generally hold auxiliary credentials in Advanced Cardiac Life Support techniques. Excellent communication skills, both verbal and written, are a necessity.
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